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Mary Dixon Kies

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Name  Mary Kies

Mary Dixon Kies Mary Dixon Kies ayearofwomen
Died  1837, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States

Mary Dixon Kies (March 21, 1752 – 1837) was an American inventor. On May 5, 1809, her patent for a new technique of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats was signed by President James Madison. Some sources state that she was the first American woman to receive a patent, however others state that Hannah Slater was the first.

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Mary Dixon Kies httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Family life

Mary Dixon Kies Women Inventors You Should Know TCW Jobs Money amp Opinion

Mary's father, John Dixon, was a farmer born in 1679 in Ulster, Ireland. Her mother, Janet Kennedy, was John Dixon's third wife. They had married in Voluntown, Connecticut on August 7, 1741. Mary Dixon was born in Killingly, Connecticut on March 21, 1752. She married Isaac Pike I, and in 1770 they had a son, Isaac Pike II. After his death she married John Kies (1750–1813) who died on August 18, 1813 at age 63. She then lived with her second son, Daniel Kies, in Brooklyn, New York, until her death at age 85 in 1837.

Career

Mary Dixon Kies Mary Kies Became the First Woman to Receive a US Patent

Because of the Napoleonic Wars, the United States embargoed all trade with France and Great Britain, creating a need for American-made hats to replace European millinery. The straw-weaving industry filled the gap, with over $500,000 ($9 million in today's money) worth of straw bonnets produced in Massachusetts alone in 1810.

Mary Dixon Kies Mary Dixon Kies Example of hat from 1831Courtesy metropolitan Museum

Mary Kies was not the first American woman to innovate in hat-making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women and girls to make her hats. The method created a new industry for girls and women because the straw bonnets could be made at home from local resources, so the women and girls could do work for themselves. Thus, Betsy Metcalf started the American straw-hat industry. Under the Patent Act of 1790 she could have sought a patent, but like most women at the time, who could not legally hold property, she chose not to. Mary Kies, however, broke that pattern on May 5, 1809. Dolley Madison was so pleased by Kies' innovation that she sent a personal letter applauding her.

Mary Dixon Kies Front Center Mary Dixon

Kies' technique proved valuable in making cost-effective work bonnets. In so doing, she bolstered New England's hat economy, which had been faltering due to the Embargo Act of 1807. However, a change in the fashion of the day made her unable to profit from her invention and she died penniless in 1837. Her original patent file was destroyed in an 1836 fire at the United States Patent Office.

Legacy

In 2006, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

References

Mary Dixon Kies Wikipedia


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